Indiana men’s soccer finished its regular season 12-4-1 overall and 5-3 in the Big Ten this season. For the first time since 2017, the team will head into the Big Ten Tournament without the regular-season title in hand after a third-place finish in the conference.
The Hoosiers will play their first matchup of the tournament against the No. 6 seed Rutgers at 1 p.m. Sunday at Bill Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington. The Hoosiers lost to the Scarlet Knights 2-1 at home Sept. 17 in their conference opener.
Since that matchup, Indiana has put together a 9-2 record to finish off the season and won seven-straight matches at one point. Junior goalkeeper Roman Celentano, who was named Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year on Friday, said Indiana is a different team now in the way it defends and attacks compared to earlier in the season when it faced Rutgers.
“We weren’t really ready for Rutgers at the beginning of the year, I think, just as a collective,” Celentano said at a press conference Friday. “With how we’ve been approaching this week and how we’ve been playing the past few weeks, I feel like we’re in a good spot.”
Celentano, who was also named first-team All-Big Ten, was one of eight Hoosiers to take home Big Ten postseason awards Friday and became the conference’s first two-time Goalkeeper of the Year winner. Junior defender Daniel Munie was named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-Big Ten.
Three Hoosiers — junior forwards Victor Bezerra and Herbert Endeley and senior defender Spencer Glass — took home second-team honors, forward Samuel Sarver and midfielder Tommy Mihalic earned spots on the conference freshman team and sophomore defender Joey Maher won the sportsmanship award.
Munie led the way on defense for Indiana, helping it put up seven-straight clean sheets toward the end of the season after a slow start to begin the year. Celentano said he’s glad Munie has gotten a lot of recognition this season, including winning the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award three times, because he’d been such a big part of the program’s success.
“I feel like this year has been good for him to actually get the spotlight and let people know he’s a force to be reckoned with,” Celentano said.
While Indiana’s defense led it down the stretch, it wasn’t able to keep Maryland off the board in its regular-season finale on Oct. 31. Maryland snapped Indiana’s seven-match win and clean-sheet streak, taking a 2-0 win and handing Indiana the third seed in the conference tournament.
Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley chalked the loss up to some bad training days from individual players but also said he didn’t coach well and should have made changes earlier. He said training this week has been much different because some players know their positions aren’t secure.
“That I think is elevating our focus,” Yeagley said. “There’s an elevated focus and edge that you really want your team to play with.”
Celentano said while Indiana was in the game against Maryland in the first half, the team came out flat in the second half and dug themselves into a hole they couldn’t get out of.
He said the loss puts into perspective how hard winning a conference title is and offers the team an opportunity to rebound. The team messed up in some key moments but learning from the loss gives them confidence heading into the conference tournament, he said.
“I feel like we’re in a good spot,” Celentano said. “We still believe in each other, one game doesn’t change that.”
Looking at their match against the Scarlet Knights, Yeagley knows the Hoosiers will need to return to their dominant defensive ways because they’re a strong offensive team.
If the Hoosiers win their first match Sunday, it would likely set up a rematch in the semi-final with the No. 2 seed Maryland Terrapins, which would be played Wednesday. Despite the loss in their season finale, Yeagley said the Hoosiers are still focused on the positives from this season heading into the conference tournament.
“You set back but you don’t go back to square one,” Yeagley said. “You just refine, and it’s been a real spirited week which has been a positive.”